This cartoon by Chappatte relates to the first Presidential Debate, which took place on Monday. When Hillary Clinton said that her Republican rival Donald Trump had paid no federal income tax in some years, Trump didn't deny it. In fact, he said: "That makes me smart." Clinton was pressing Trump for not releasing his tax returns for public scrutiny. Trump has said he won't release his tax returns until a routine audit is complete, though every major party presidential candidate over the past 40 years have released tax returns. You can watch the exchange here.
COMMENTARY The cartoon shows a poor white working-class couple who live in a trailer watching the debate. We know they are Trump supporters because they have a 'Go Trump' sticker on the side of their trailer. The irony is that they (and many others like them) support Trump even though he's a billionaire who boasts about not paying taxes. Go figure!
VOCABULARY Smart means intelligent or clever. • If you were smart, you’d buy now before prices go up.
Here's a short video I made to present my Crossword English website, where you'll find dozens of free crosswords for learners and teachers of English.
TRANSCRIPT Hello, Jeffrey Hill here. If you enjoyed doing the crosswords in this course, check out my Crossword English website. Here, you can sign up to receive a free daily crossword by email, which you can either download and print, or do online. You'll find dozens of general English crosswords at Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced level as well as thematic crosswords and crosswords for business English. The online version is interactive, so you can get help with letters or words, If you're a teacher, the PDF version is ready to be photocopied for use in the classroom. And be sure to visit the Store, where you can buy copies of my crossword books. Happy puzzling!
I was delighted to see that BBC Learning English has a new course called English at University, aimed at students going to study abroad, since that's a challenge all of my EM Normandie students have to face at some time or other. What's more, Mary, the main character, is going to study business - just like my students, although, of course, they're French not Indian!
DESCRIPTION A new funny and exciting drama series that brings you the English words and phrases you need to help you through your first year at university. Every week you can follow new student Mary, through her first year of study abroad - at The University of Studies – that's the UK's thirty-second best university - where she's been offered a place to study for a degree in Business.
COMMENTS As usual with BBC courses you get a downloadable PDF with the transcript and a separate audio file, which is great for listening to as a podcast. In case you were wondering, Mary and her family have Indian accents, so we can assume they are living in India, although it's not actually stated.
How important are the forthcoming presidential debates? Todd Graham, director of debate at Southern Illinois University, says they could just decide the election. Graham breaks down the relative strengths and weaknesses of both candidates, and what they need to do to win.
TRANSCRIPT If you'd like to improve your listening and speaking skills in English, be sure to download our free app: Smart English by EM Normandie. The app works on both Apple and Android devices and currently features two courses: Make Friends in English and Get Around Town. Each course has 24 lessons, with animated videos and interactive practice activities. In Make Friends in English, you'll learn what to say in typical social situations. Here's a clip from the lesson 'Offer to Pay'. Our new course, 'Get Around Town', focuses on the language you need in everyday situations. For example, buying medicine at the chemist's. Or asking for travel information. Here's the video from the lesson on buying a train ticket. The app is completely free, so download it today! Just scan the QR code or use the URL that corresponds to your device.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm a big fan of crossword puzzles. So, following on from my previous crossword books, I'm pleased to announce the publication of a new one: 60 Easy Crossword Puzzles for ESL, which is available for the bargain price of five euros! In fact, it's a PDF e-book, which means that you can easily print individual crosswords for yourself or your students to do.
The crosswords in this collection are suitable for learners of English at elementary level and above, but can also be used with younger learners whose first language is English. Each crossword features 20-30 words relating to a specific theme (Clothes, Animals, Halloween, etc).
A list of all 1,000 words used in the puzzles is provided, as is an individual word list for each puzzle. The notes for teachers include original ideas for using crosswords in the classroom, tips for creating your own crosswords, as well as links to online crossword resources.
A special feature of this collection is that each crossword is linked to an interactive online version which can be done on a computer or mobile device.
Click here to view a complete list of contents and see some sample puzzles.
It's never been so easy to learn a language online, and sites like Duolingo and Babbel have become very popular with literally millions of learners. However, you need a lot of motivation to teach yourself a language, and the activities on such sites can quickly become repetitive and, dare I say, boring after a while. In my opinion, nothing beats a real-life teacher (I'm biased, I know!) The good news is that there are an increasing number of sites offering one-to-one tuition via Skype or other video calling platforms. One such site is Skill Silo, which was co-founded by American entrepreneur Josh Aharonoff. I thought it would be interesting to interview Josh to get an insight into this rapidly expanding area of language learning.
EB: Josh, can you begin by giving us an overview of your site?
JA: We provide live 1-on-1 language instructions via video conferencing. Users sign onto our website, choose a language they would like to learn, find a professor that fits their needs, and request a free 30 minute trial lesson.
EB: Do you have a background in languages or education yourself?
JA: Nope – just a passion for learning as a whole.
EB: How did the site come to be?
JA: When I graduated college, I decided that a fun hobby to take up would be to learn Spanish. I found an ad on Craigslist that offered to teach me Spanish via Skype and I thought “man…that sounds pretty cool”. After trying out the service for just a few hours, I was amazed at my level of progress. Instead of having to pay for a class that meets at a fixed time, I now could have a lesson whenever I wanted, from anywhere in the world. Instead of following a lesson plan that the course designated, I was now free to learn whatever I wanted. About a year later I decided to quit my full time job as an accountant and work with 2 of my close friends to open up a website that taught languages, and eventually will teach other subjects, via videoconferencing.
EB: There are plenty of other sites which offer online one-to-one language tutoring using video chat. What makes Skill Silo different?
JA: A couple things. The biggest difference is that we personally vet all of our teachers, and provide a curriculum, which the student is free to follow, or customize. In addition to that, we also charge a fixed price, regardless of the professor a student uses. Last but not least, we service both companies and individuals.
EB: You offer a dozen or so languages. How do you find your teachers?
JA: We personally interview each and every candidate, and put them through mock lessons. Our acceptance rate is lower than 20% - which is OK. Our service won’t work if we can’t provide the utmost quality – which 98% of our users rate 5/5 after each lesson.
EB: Online language learning is a very competitive marketplace. How are things going at the moment?
JA: Running a business is real tough. Everyone has this notion that you can create a new service, it will spread like wildfire and you can just sit back and count the profits. The truth is, this whole experience has been one large marathon in which we are still learning a ton. Our first dream is to become self-sufficient thanks to our company, while a second place dream would be to continue learning each and every day what it takes to run a successful company. Our second dream came true on day one, and we are now hoping that our first dream will follow.
EB: How do you see Skill Silo developing over the months (and hopefully, years) ahead?
JA: We are working on expanding our service beyond languages to other subjects such as standardized testing, computer programming, and other crafts. Our vision is to allow anyone to learn anything, from anywhere in the world, via a live tutor, at an affordable price. We look forward to having more good news for you soon!
I always look forward to Apple Events, not because I'm interested in buying the latest Apple gadgets, but because they are invariably a great source of lesson material for my business English students. Wednesday's event was no exception and here are some of the resources I'll be using in class, starting with a great video that condenses the two-hour show into just 107 seconds!
And here's a slightly longer (and less frenetic) summary:
And here's a great little BBC video showing how mobile phone have evolved since those bricks people used back in the eighties.
With over 16,000 free worksheets and nearly 2,000 articles, BusyTeacher has become one of the top online resource sites for ELT teachers. I've always thought their e-books were attractive, full of practical ideas, and good value at $10 each. However, there are over eighty of them, so buying just a few would stretch the budget of even the best-paid (or perhaps I should say least poorly-paid!) English teacher. Well, the good news is that all 80 e-books are now available at the bargain price of $80 (that makes a saving of $720!) Virtually every topic you could think of is covered, so it's a fantastic resource for both novice teachers and more experienced ones. Of course, it's not easy navigating 80 separate PDF e-books, so they've thoughtfully included a single searchable file in the bundle containing all 80 books (over 4,000 pages!) You can view some sample pages here.
VERDICT Perfect for teachers seeking original ideas for the new school year or wanting to upgrade their skills.
Great news for the start of the school year: our free app "SmartEnglish by EM Normandie" has just added a new course entitled Get Around Town in English.
Over 24 lessons, you will learn how to deal with everyday situations in English such as: – arriving at the airport – buying a train ticket (see video below) – going shopping – booking a B&B and many more common situations.
There are over 25 minutes of animation in this course that will help you learn the right phrases for each situation.
You will also: – improve your pronunciation – do lots of interactive practice – take tests to unlock prize videos – take part in simulated conversations.
And you get more than a learning app – you also get a digital phrasebook. All the phrases from the course are listed in a section called Reference – with audio. It’s like a phrasebook for the 21st century.
Get Around Town joins the original course Making Friends in English, which was launched in May. More courses will be added in future, so make sure you download the app today! Use these links or scan the QR code below.
After an extended break for the holidays, I've now started posting a daily crossword puzzle again on my Crossword English website. Today's crossword is based on a recent BBC News article about a giant lobster found by a diver off the coast of north Devon. You can either do the crossword online or download a PDF version to print out. Happy puzzling!
For teachers, it's that time of year again when the holidays are almost over and thoughts inevitably (if somewhat reluctantly!) turn back to teaching. Students too will be joining new classes, or even new schools. Many teachers will already have a selection tried and tested activities to help them get to know their new students, but if you're looking for something a bit different, check out Walton Burns' 50 Activities for the First Day of School, which may be the only collection of first day activities that is specifically targeted at ELT teachers. You'll find a lot of 'icebreakers' and warm-up activities, but also fun ways to introduce the rules, or do creative needs analysis. The book includes clear instructions and a lot of variations, so it's suitable for both novice and more experienced teachers. See here for a list of contents and some sample activities.
VERDICT A mix of old classics and new ideas make this a very useful collection of activities, which will provide plenty of ideas and inspiration for teachers wondering how to approach that all-important first class.
TIP Check out Walton's website, where you can find lots of other useful resources.